April 18, 2015


The End of the Republic : Review: Barry Strauss' The Death of Caesar (Tom Rogan, April 18, 2015, Daily Signal)

The struggle for power is the heart of this skillful, accessible account. Strauss is keen that we understand just how ruthless the men of Rome were, noting how Brutus had once locked debtor councilmen in their homes until they starved to death. He provides profiles of all the major figures involved in the Ides of March--Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus--but focuses, naturally, on Caesar's power. He explains how Caesar "replaced republican austerity with imperial pomp and sealed it with a dynasty's stamp." In essence, Caesar began the transformation of Rome from a republic back to an effective monarchy--a form of government from which it had long before escaped.

By pursuing his own absolutist authority with such aggressiveness so quickly, Caesar sowed the seeds of his own demise. As Strauss puts it:

In three months, Caesar had disrespected the Senate, dispensed with People's Tribune, and flirted with monarchy. By February, the conspiracy that would bring Caesar down was being born. In fact, it might already have been alive.

Physical arrogance (the conqueror refused to accept a bodyguard) and poor political calculations were more proximate causes of his death. Strauss explains how Caesar had long cultivated a reputation as a forgiving political master who would grant wealth and prestige in return for absolute loyalty.

But Caesar failed to heed that what he had to offer would not trump the wounded pride of the Roman nobility, members of which determined that Brutus must be at the fore of the plot. Brutus' family was immensely distinguished, and believed to have been involved in the original transition from monarchy to self-rule. Strauss describes how the "conspirators insisted on him. Their principle was that to kill a king it takes a king--or at least a prince, and Brutus was practically a republican prince."

Posted by at April 18, 2015 6:11 AM

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